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In order to give more background to the reason why I left Christianity I think it is pertinent for me to give more background of why I stayed with Christianity for the time that I did and what my experience as a believer was. I’ve already explained my initial conversion experience and the tumultuous year following that. This post will explain my experience in the year following my high school graduation, where I worked in a small town grocery store.
Probably the most unique thing about my experience at this, my very first job, was that it gave me the opportunity to work first hand with people who were not Christian. Until this point I had had minimal contact with people who did not share my beliefs. I sort of became the “token Mennonite,” as there were little to no other Mennonite employees at the store. I found this delightful. I loved it when people asked me questions and I had the opportunity to explain that actually Mennonites didn’t believe these insane things that they’d heard were true. On occasion heated topics related to God and religion would arise and I would do the best I could to explain Christianity, separating it from what I saw as misconceptions or incorrect associations.
These occasionally conversations which directly related to Christianity, though quite enjoyable for me, were not what I found most appealing about my experience at my job. I found that I really liked the people I worked with (well, most of the time). There was something so genuine about them. I was so happy when people criticized myself and each other. There was so much honesty. There wasn’t a lot of time wasted on niceties. People just said what they meant and if they didn’t like someone they didn’t pretend to like them. I loved it. I had to admit it was something I hadn’t really experienced much of before.
These people were very important to me and I wanted so badly for them to experience the love of Jesus in their lives. Almost every Sunday at church I would envision them sitting in one of the empty benches, worshiping God with me. The thought of it just made me so happy. I could hardly think of anything I’d like more.
During this year, when I wasn’t at work (which is a surprisingly small amount of time), I spent a fair amount of time investigating the more theological aspects of my faith. I had stumbled across a video on YouTube of a ranting atheist giving an “argument” against Christianity. I thought it was a little silly and wished I could somehow respond to this person and maybe clear up some misunderstandings about what Christianity actually is. So I quickly made myself a YouTube account and wrote a non-aggressive comment under the video, questioning one of the claims he’d made in the video. It didn’t take long for me to get responses from other YouTuber atheists who were hard-set on showing how completely stupid I was for believing in God. So I responded to them by entirely ignoring their insults and respectfully responding to their arguments. I managed to actually have a few very good discussions with people. At no time, though, did anyone present an argument that really phased me. They made me think, for sure. But nothing that was presented caused me to doubt much. In fact, it strangely all seemed to reinforce my Christian belief.
Another thing that reinforced my Christian belief was “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins. I decided to read this book because I thought it’d be good to be aware of what the popular arguments against God are. When I read this book it nearly made me laugh. The “god” that Dawkins wrote about didn’t have any resemblance to the God I believed in. It came off as a long childish rant proving nothing. (I was likely biased when I read it, but my view of this book has changed very little even now).
During this year my Christianity filled out more as I lived it out among those who didn’t believe and faced some of the tougher questions posed by atheists. Christianity was real and fulfilling to me in an emotional sense and an intellectual sense. The thought that I might one day not be a Christian would have been laughable to me at the time. It was my life. Nothing made sense without it.
Something else that occupied my mind during this year (and one’s preceding it) was the infamous question: what am I going to do with my life? I really didn’t know what I wanted to do until about 6 months after I graduated. I had been weighing out the options which at that point were basically: go to university, go to Bible school, go on a missions trip, work more, or something strange and outlandish. I thought about them all and it eventually became clear to me that university is what I wanted to do. I don’t really know why this one seemed the most sensible of the options but it did so that’s what I went with. My next post describes my first year of university as a philosophy student…